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Ag groups not giving up on Cuba

Last week, leaders of Minnesota government agencies made a trip to Cuba to talk trade and to highlight Minnesota products.

The delegation was led by Lieutenant Governor of Minnesota Tina Smith and featured leaders of many top Ag organizations throughout the state. Minnesota Ag Commissioner Dave Frederickson was on the trip and said trade is of equal interest to those in Cuba.

“Trade is important to them,” Frederickson said. “Obviously, they have things that they would like to sell abroad, and certainly we have things that we would like to sell abroad, into the Cuban market. That’s the message that they’re bringing; they’re interested in moving their products, and of course they have two iconic products: rum and tobacco products such as Cuban cigars. They feel there’s a market for those two products and others, and certainly think there’s an opportunity for bulk products.”

With Cuba only 90 miles off the coast of Florida, it is a logical trade partner with the U.S. But, with politics involved, it all comes down to time.

“Change comes slowly, so they’re moving in the right direction,” Frederickson said. “I think it will take time to establish relationships. If and when those relationships, the blockade or embargo might possibly be lifted. Things, I think, will continue to grow. But until that happens, it will be full progress.”

Technology and innovation in agriculture frequently changes in the United States. However, in Cuba, farming has a much different look

“The agriculture, some people say, is 30 to 40 years behind,” Frederickson said. “But, if you consider a pair of oxen and a single walking cow 50 years, you might want to add another 50 years to get that to 100 years. It’s remarkable. The buildings are in tough shape, and the economy is in a struggle.”

Cuba’s population is roughly twice the size of the population of Minnesota. Some have argued that trade with Cuba is insignificant because of this. Frederickson feels that all of agriculture in Minnesota can benefit from trade with Cuba.

“I see some opportunities for feed, distillers grain, ethanol would be a strong possibility for increased sales and all bulk commodities,” Frederickson said. “They use what we use, but they buy it from somebody else. We had a major portion of that market 50 years ago.”

Audio courtesy of Joe Gill from KASM in Albany, MN.